Fiction

A world of Botswana’s blue skies and redbush tea

Sona Maniar | Updated on November 16, 2021

McCall Smith is a master storyteller and employs his gentle, unfussy writing style to weave another feel-good narrative

The Joy and Light Bus Company is the latest installment in the long-running fictional series of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency written by Alexander McCall Smith. The series is set in Botswana and features Mma Precious Ramotswe, a traditionally-built woman who has established her country’s first and finest female-owned detective agency.

This particular book places Mma Ramotswe’s husband, JLB Matekoni, at the centre of the drama. He happens to attend a business course titled ‘Where is your Business Going?’ and encounters a childhood friend, TK Molefi, who has now become a successful businessman. JLB Matekoni, a mechanic by profession and owner of the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, then gets drawn into a scheme to start a bus company with Molefi as a joint partner. But to kickstart this new enterprise, he must first get a bank loan using the garage as collateral. The possibility of failure of the bus venture and the spectre of financial ruin cause Mma Ramostwe to turn extremely worried.

And there is more to the storyline: Baboloki Mophephu, a paying client, turns up on page 75. He would like Mma Ramostwe to investigate the case of a “wicked” nurse who has managed to convince his aging father to leave his farmhouse to her in his will. Further, a local wealthy family is rumoured to be exploiting children by using them as slave labour. Mma Ramostwe is required to balance her domestic issues with her professional and moral obligations.

Understanding human nature

Eventually, the various threads of the story are neatly tied up. Mma Ramotswe relies on her resourcefulness and understanding of human nature to handle delicate situations and matters are resolved much to the reader’s satisfaction.

Alexander McCall Smith is a master storyteller and once again, he employs his gentle, unfussy writing style to weave another feel-good narrative. Smith is undeniably one of the most gifted and prolific writers of our times. He has the ability to write nearly 1,000 words an hour and has produced over 100 books so far. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective agency series is among his more popular works and has even been converted into television format. Its appeal lies mainly in the characters, namely Mma Ramotswe and her able colleague Mma Makutsi, who are likeable Botswanan women, with strong ethical and moral values.

An innocent world

The Joy and Light Bus Company is a welcome and worthy addition to this series. The reader will merrily surrender herself to the world inhabited by Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and JLB Matekoni, a world where the backdrop is provided by acacia trees standing tall under the generous blue skies of Botswana and redbush tea is required while discussing matters worth discussing. This world is yet to be immersed in technological advances but the author drops hints of concern amongst the characters of the oncoming technology onslaught. JLB Matekoni laments about modern cars and big garages where “they plug your car into a computer and it tells them where the fault is”. Mma Ramotswe sympathises with him and muses over what an invention of a detective machine would mean for her.

Moreover, the author deftly conveys the reactions of the characters to the idea of a new business venture. One can only chuckle when Mma Makutsi expresses her disdain for a potential investor by stating, “He sounds very foolish to me, but sometimes these foolish people are very successful. They go for the schemes that nobody else wants, and then suddenly everything works, and they become very rich.

The warmth, compassion and humour in the book will be sure to linger with the reader long after she has turned the final page.

The Joy and Light Bus Company
  • by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Published by Pantheon
  • 240 pages. Price: Rs 1,577 Hardcover

Check out the book on Amazon

Sona Maniar currently works in corporate venturing for a large engineering conglomerate. She is also an author of a book on corporate fiction.

Published on November 16, 2021

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